Thursday, November 4, 2010

Be the Ultimate Locavore: Eat Forgotten Foods

Chickweed - new gourmet darling -- and free, too!

Do you ever stand in the produce section of your local supermarket, feeling tired of the same old green beans, squash, and lettuce? Are those gourmet fruits and vegetables just too expensive? Are you trying to do a better job of eating locally-grown foods?

Here's an idea - start eating the forgotten foods that are growing all around you. There are hundreds of plants that people have eaten for thousands of years that go begging every day. These are fruits and vegetables that are tasty and nutritious. They were popular foods before people started farming, and even after most people turned to agriculture they enjoyed these wonderful plants that shared our habitats. The only problem is that people stopped eating them. And the reasons people stopped eating them had more to do with demographic and economic changes in society -- it had nothing to do with flavor or usefulness.

Nowadays, we call them weeds. We waste money on harmful herbicides to kill perfectly delicious and nutritious foods that are growing in our own gardens, yards, and window boxes. Our problem is that we just don't know about them.

Well, I've been eating edible wild plants for 40 years now, and I'm here to tell you they are some of the most interesting foods around. I've even been hoping that the current economic downturn will serve as a source of encouragement for adventurous cooks to venture forth into their yards and learn to eat their weeds. Not all weeds are edible, but many more of the weeds in the average suburban yard are edible than are the ornamental plants, many of which are deadly poison. If you only learn -- and use -- five edible wild plants on a regular basis, then you, too, could save money and reduce your environmental footprint substantially.

A few evenings ago, I was invited to give a presentation on edible weeds to the local Master Gardener's group in my home county. Click on the link to see my PowerPoint presentation.

Please, dear readers, let me know if you would like more information on this topic. In fact, to encourage you to comment,  starting this month I will hold a free giveaway to one lucky person who posts a comment to this blog. The winner will be chosen at random, so comment early and often.


aslansavz said...

We grow an abundance of dandelion every spring/summer in our yard, and I've yet been brave enough to sneak it into our salads...but really need to!

I'd love to know more about acorns for food. Leaching seems so daunting to me, and I just ignore the huge amounts of acorns we have at our disposal here..for anything other than arts & crafts projects.

Ellen said...

deb dude: Before I exert myself commenting. WHAT"S THE PRIZE?

Barb said...

Yes, more please! I seem to be able to grow an abundance of weeds, but little else.

Ellen said...

and yes, more please!

Deb Duchon said...

OK Ellen, dude, here's the prize. A cookbook: Fried & True: Crispy and Delicious Dishes from Appetizers to Desserts. By Rick Rodgers A $16.95 value.

To everybody - thanks so much for your interest in my favorite topic!

One thing I didn't make clear. Use acorns from WHITE OAK. There are many kinds of white oaks but they all have one thing in common - the leaves have rounded lobes. The other great category of oaks is RED OAKS - the leaf lobes are pointy. The acorns of the red oak are also edible but contain much more tannin.

JodieMo said...

Love this post. Lots of good info about some wild food. I have plenty of dandelion in my front yard that will soon be in my next salad!

Doug said...

Our favorite spring tonic is poke. Pick leaves when plants are small (pencil size stems). Boil with 3 water changes to remove toxin. Eat as you would mustard greens or as we do mixed in scrambled eggs. Wonderful flavor. Older plants including berries are very toxic and can be fatal.

Catherine said...

This is so interesting, and something that I would never had thought much about. Are there any great books out there that you can recommend on this topic?

The Author said...

Now that's a topic I need to research. We have lots of open fields in our area, behind the house in fact, and I know there's some good stuff out there. I may even try skunk cabbage in the spring. We jokingly call it our 'first crop of the season.'


Deb Duchon said...

Hey y'all - If you want to be entered in the prize drawing, I need to be able to reach you. Be sure to choose an identity when you comment that reveals your identity. Thanks

Dave Fouchey said...

Hmm does eating flowers count? Love violets in punches and salads, wild mint's, berries of course those are obvious. Chufa root (Cyperus esculentus) nodules are tasty. Various and sundry nuts such as Hickory, Butternut, Walnuts, Hazel nuts, rose hips, ok I admit it I eat a lot of wild foods. I blame it on my mom and grandfather.

Dave Fouchey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Vivienne Kruger said...

Hello. I am writing to you to introduce my new book, Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali (Tuttle Publishing, 2014). I believe it will be of great interest and relevance to the Culinary Historians of Atlanta and anyone interested in the exotic foods (and religious underpinnings) of cooking in Indonesia, Bali, and Southeast Asia in general.As an expert on the island of Bali, as well as on Balinese cuisine and food culture, I use food as the lens through which we explore Balinese cooking, the Bali-Hindu religion, food masterpieces as offerings for the gods, secular versus sacred cuisine, and traditional village society. I have also included my informational material and reviews/interviews. The book is jam-packed with my excitement and knowledge about Bali, my subject material, and the smiles and laughter and traditional knowledge of the three million people on the island of the gods. I have a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University, so this book was meticulously researched at a high level of culinary exploration and cultural investigation.

Balinese Food--a valuable social and cultural resource about Bali--fully illuminates its intricate, ancient, highly spiced food heritage.Food is the lens through which we view and examine the singular culture of the island of the gods.Balinese Food is a heavily researched social and culinary resource for anyone interested in traditional Balinese customs, religion, food culture, and society.It is now available in bookstores worldwide, and was officially released on April 22, 2014 in the USA. I have a large presence on in my Author Section at the bottom of the page.

I also have a beautiful blogspot where you can see photos of Bali and Balinese food.

Balinese food is singular among the leading cuisines of the world: dedicated to the gods and fueled by an array of achingly fresh spices, it is inextricably bound to the island’s Bali-Hindu religion, culture, and community life. Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali bears witness to Bali’s time-honored, enduring, authentic village cuisine: the extraordinary, legendary beauty of Bali is mirrored in its spectacular ceremonial feasts. The preparation of Balinese food is steeped in divine rituals, exactitude, and religious perfectionism: curious strangers in paradise can only gape in awe, respect, and admiration—as we struggle to learn how to eat and make food offerings on the island of the gods. Three million peasants by day—three million smiling artists by night--the Balinese carve and etch and paint their food into the rich spiritual shapes and divine colors of fragrant, holy temples and imposing royal palaces. They build and they cook with love, art, and reverence on an island perfectly positioned and protected—and lost in time--eight secret degrees south of the equator. Welcome to the luscious green villages and humble kitchens of Bali!

Balinese Food: The Traditional Cuisine and Food Culture of Bali stands witness to Bali’s time-honored, enduring, authentic village cuisine: the extraordinary, legendary beauty of Bali is mirrored in both its creative culinary arts and in its food culture. Three million Balinese share the same small, protected green jewel (and the same intrinsic, culinary world view): together, they embrace a deeply engrained, cultural and spiritual understanding of ancient, divinely ordained foods, food preparation methodologies, cooking skills, and motivations. They also live in complete food and philosophical harmony with nature—with the lava-enriched soil, plants, flora and fauna, mysterious sea life, and rare spice gifts that govern their exotic equatorial cuisine. Balinese Food breaks new ground in its study of Balinese culture and the extraordinary people on the island of the gods--approached through the unique vehicle of their delicious foods and ancient, indigenous, traditional cooking rites.

Chuck Levin said...

Maybe Euell Gibbons would like it.